The price tower is probably
one of Wright’s least organic buildings. When Harold Price approached
Wright to design him a set of offices for his business, Wright saw an
opportunity to rehash a design for a tower which he had originally
proposed as part of a New York apartment complex. In New York, the
towers would appear natural, but in a small town on the open prairie the
Price Tower is certainly an anomaly.
Because Price’s requirements for an office building were far less than
what had inspired the apartment buildings in New York, Wright had to
adapt his design. I suspect that the introduction of apartments into the
brief would have been made by Wright to justify adding additional floor
space, so the building could maintain the slender profile proper of a
skyscraper. Even with these apartments the building would have appeared
stumpy, and so Wright shrunk the plan of the building, and raised the
floor to ceiling heights. The result is a building with incredibly tight
but tall spaces.
I went through the tower with three other people and it was impossible
for us to all fit in the elevator lobby; it really felt no larger than a
closet. Walking through the thin hallways, I felt as though my shoulders
would touch both sides. One of the more interesting repercussions of
shrinking the plan while stretching the elevation is found in the
apartments. The apartments have a mezzanine loft-type configuration with
a concrete staircase between levels. The treads of the stairs have been
reduced while the risers have been raised, creating a staircase that is
really more like a ladder.
The tower uses more or less square floor slabs inlaid with a
parallelogram grid. The slabs are dissected by a pinwheeling massive
element that divides the floor into four quadrants; three for offices
and one for apartments. Copper panels pressed with geometric designs are
used as sun shades and as a cladding material that moves from within the
building and out through the glazing.
For many years Bruce Goff was a tenant of one of the apartments in the
Price Tower. Today it is operated as an art museum and a hotel, with a
fit-out designed by Zaha Hadid.